June 20, 2023

Law School in a Pandemic Ungrouped: How Online J.D. Experiences Varied Across Students

Research and Data

Executive Summary

At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, law schools and students resiliently forged ahead, endeavoring — many for the first time — to pursue their J.D. programs online. AccessLex Institute® and Gallup partnered to survey law students about their experiences with online J.D. courses during this time, releasing two Law School in a Pandemic reports in 2021 and 2022 to discuss each year’s findings. This third and final report in the series examines the extent to which student perceptions of their J.D. programs during the pandemic differed by various characteristics — namely race/ethnicity, age, enrollment status, caregiver status, and law school tier.

Generally, we find that part-time students, caregivers, students ages 30 and older, and those attending tier-four (T4) ranked law schools were most receptive to online J.D. courses and reported more favorable experiences compared to their counterparts. And while there were few differences by race/ethnicity, we find that underrepresented students of color were more likely than White and Asian students to perceive that online courses allow more time to gain legal work experience and work to earn money. However, underrepresented students were less likely to report easy access to career services and to agree their J.D. program is worth the cost. These findings suggest that the appeal of online J.D. courses varies across student demographics. Law schools seeking to broaden distance learning opportunities can leverage these results to design equitable, quality online experiences for their students